Foam Rolling 101 August 08, 2017 14:24

What is it? Why and how do you do it? Sports doc Jordan Metzl explains why it's so great for your body.

In a perfect world, we’d all get deep tissue massages every day and chocolate-dipped doughnuts would be calorie-free and packed with antioxidants. I’m still waiting on those magical doughnuts, but it turns out that daily massages are no longer a perk reserved for the under worked and overpaid. Meet your body's new best friend: foam rolling.

foam roller

“If you only buy one piece of exercise equipment for the rest of your life, make it a foam roller,” says Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., author of The Exercise Cure and The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies. “It’s the most convenient, reliable, and inexpensive massage therapist money can buy." The simple Styrofoam cylinders cost around $30 a piece, and it's money well spent when you consider that you're investing in improved flexibility, upgraded mobility, peak muscle performance, and injury prevention and treatment.

How It Works
The brilliance of the foam roller is in its ease of use: You just place the target body part on top of the roller and roll back and forth. This basic movement targets your myofascia -- the mesh-like fibers that form around your muscles in response to damage caused by both working out too much (inflammation, injury) and not working out enough (inactivity). When myofascia get stuck on your muscles, they can cause pain and prevent normal muscle movement.

foam roller

The good news is that stretching the fascia using a foam roller releases the muscles so that they can work the way they’re supposed to. Case in point: A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Researchfound that foam rolling the quads increased participants range of motion by as much as 10 degrees.

“You’ll notice immediate changes in your ease of movement, posture, and mobility,” says Metzl. “Without stretching at all, you’ll feel looser and more flexible -- as if you’ve developed a healthier body almost instantaneously.”


Metzl recommends foam rolling three to five times per week after exercising, but you can also do it nightly before bed if you have chronic muscle tightness.